Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Cowboys & Aliens" (2011) - Movie Review

“Cowboys & Aliens” is the second film wherein the ridiculousness and the popularity of the title outweighs the film itself. The first one is the obvious “Snakes on a Plane” unseen by me. Directed by “Iron Man” fame Jon Favreau, the film is exactly what it says and in that unabashed marketing ploy works in its favour, at least for the most part. Having Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Sam Rockwell does not hurt either though their talent can be well employed and spent on other reasonable and productive ventures.

My exposure to Western films happened lately and have been thoroughly enjoying them ever since. Even when Coen brothers “True Grit” went mumbled and unheard into the mouths of Jeff Bridges, the mere atmosphere of unforgiving sun, the unshaven men and the dirt that sticks inbetween those stubble creates a strange poetic attraction in to the darkness and resolute nature of these men’s unlawful and lawful missions of that time. Surely “Cowboys & Aliens” benefit from those with a thumping opening scene of Daniel Craig as the nameless man dismantling some resistance with power and blood.

Most of the Western begins with a nameless stranger entering a town and this one follows the suit. There is the mysticism to this usualness, the irony of that predictability is one such that has this genre running forever. I think I will never get bored of seeing it and so Jon Favreau already had me in the start. As we get to know the townspeople starting with the mysterious gal Olivia Wilde as Ella and Sam Rockwell as the do good and naive Doc, the plot gets to the eventuality intersecting Harrison Ford’s Colonel Woodrow and Daniel Craig’s nameless man getting the wanted man’s name of Jake.

When they are in the midst on the cusp of a gun fight breaking, in comes the flying machines from nowhere and strings people into their machine. Startled, confused and wondering what the heck is happening around them Jake’s metal bracelet becomes the defeating weapon they would come to depend on. As they begin to venture on to rescue the people that were captured by these aliens, the film goes through the regular fodder of a Western and brings in the aliens when there is a need for action and common enemies for these people.

With the previews and marketing campaigns in the current days, a film can generate a buzz purely by those techniques. Handled as a business venture, it has evolved into the nature of launching a product and selling it. Here the sell is half done with the obviousness of the name on what exactly to expect out of it. And with the previews, it reiterates the further obviousness and the audience bite into it. With so much given away the least expected is to fulfill those giveaways. The mind game of this slow revelation works in the favour of the film.

While we know that Daniel Craig can make one hell of a beat up and tough James Bond, here he toughens further and becomes the iron hand of a man in Jake. A man chiseled in his physique and determination through his eyes stands tall and different carrying the film’s stature. Harrison Ford comes in and joins it for the fun of it and shouts here and there to add some old school lessons in adventure and action. Throw in good natured Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde as the love interest for Jake, you have the recipe for a moderately successful entertainment.
The aliens are as usual mindless, disgusting, gooey and portrayed as nothing but beasts. How come they are so great at creating cutting edge technology far beyond the time and minds of the humans and shun away the nature to have a sense of negotiation? That is least of the concerns even in a serious science fiction film and in a film like “Cowboys & Aliens”, it does not really matter. All the audience are in need of a thrill and the motivation to plough through these creatures with no mercy and no guilt.

There are several films obvious enough in their title and previews and few of them go beyond the judgments and come out with clever entertainment. One such is “Zombieland” and you can see how the actors were having fun shooting it. Here as much as the campaign works, there seems to be not much fun going on nor does any kind of effort in terms of creativity to put an unexpected spin. It is not all fun but it is honest in what it plans to provide. It is like seeing a good salesperson work and sometimes despite the product is unnecessary and not useful personally, you buy for the hard work of the skills in the person. “Cowboys & Aliens” is that product.


Barath said...

Agree most part of your review but actually expected a strong feedback from you. me,padma, shalu, sharmila and Dr.Chinna went for this movie last night with minimum expectation generated out of "IronMan" director, of course Daniel Craig - Harrison Ford and the clear title. We were all deeply disappointed, with each and every scene so predictable except for the first few mins.

Ashok said...

The reason I did not go all out on it is because I did not take it any seriously as it did itself. There was indeed a great Western hidden inside with right attitude from director would have provided something like "Appaloose" but when a film comes with a title like this, :-) there is nothing more to it than that.